It looks like a liquor vote is coming to Lula.
The City Council voted Wednesday morning to place a referendum on the Nov. 8 ballot asking voters of the Northeast Hall city if they favor being allowed to buy liquor at restaurants and other establishments.
“We think that, to get some progress coming on Ga. 365, we’re going to have the liquor voted in, so I hope the people vote for it,” Councilman Garnett Smith said after the meeting.
The vote wasn’t unanimous, as Councilman Lamb Griffin chose to abstain.
“I was always strict in church and all … it was just the way I was raised,” he said afterward. “I represent the city of Lula. I want to see the it grow and do good, and I’ve also got to stand for my beliefs.”
The council also voted to not put on the ballot a separate referendum asking voters if they want liquor sales on Sunday.
“We don’t want Sunday sales,” Smith and Councilman Mordecai Wilson both said, almost at the same time.
Buying beer and wine at a restaurant or bar might be decided later by the council, City Manager Dennis Bergin said.
Currently, only beer and wine package sales are allowed in Lula Monday through Saturday.
While the state requires cities to get voter approval before allowing liquor sales, cities don’t need a referendum to allow on-premises beer and wine sales.
Council members have indicated they are awaiting the outcome of the Nov. 8 vote “before they take that issue up,” Bergin said.
Facing an Aug. 1 deadline to place the issue on the ballot, the City Council has been talking about possible alcohol-related referendums for the past couple of months.
In a May 17 meeting, City Manager Dennis Bergin said that with growth moving Lula’s way, particularly commercial and retail development along Ga. 365, “it’s reasonable to expect some of the investments you’d like to see in that corridor … are going to have some form of alcohol sales.”
“Like it or not, (alcohol sales have) become commonplace, and we’ve got to be there along with everybody else in this competitive market,” he said.
“We want to be on a level playing field — that’s a reasonable expectation,” Bergin said. “And the other reasonable expectation is we can do a good job of governance to assure that some of the concerns the community should have (are addressed).”
On Wednesday, council members didn’t discuss much beyond putting the issue to voters.
Lula officials have said they would likely limit new retail sales of alcohol to the downtown commercial district and Ga. 365 corridor.